The Guest: A Forgettable and Sloppily Executed Thriller (Blu-ray)
Thus far, the collaborations of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett haven’t been going very well. Aside from the two dabbling in the disappointing “V/H/S” and “The ABCs of Death” horror anthologies, they also gave us the bland and forgettable home invasion slasher “You’re Next,” an entry in the genre that had nothing to differentiate it from the multitude of other films just like it. However, even with all of these misfires behind them, they continue to soldier on, which brings us to their latest project, “The Guest.” The film tells the story of a young soldier, David (Dan Stevens), who has recently returned home. The first thing he does is visit the mother, Laura (Sheila Kelley), of a fallen comrade, who invites him to stay with her and her family. Over the next few days, he gets to know them, helping her son Luke (Brendan Meyer) with bullies and attending a party with her daughter Anna (Maika Monroe). However, even though Anna appears to be accepting of him, she still decides to put in a call to confirm David’s identity, only to find out that her suspicions might indeed be correct.
On the surface, “The Guest” has a fine premise that could easily work to deliver an engaging mystery and a good amount of thrills. However, without the proper execution and development of the story, it can easily turn into a bit of a bore. Unfortunately, in the hands of Wingard and Barrett, who have had a lot of trouble with such things in the past, it becomes a story in which the full potential is never realized. The film only runs a brief 95 minutes, but Barrett’s screenplay becomes far too fascinated with the mystery element surrounding David. The audience knows that David isn’t exactly who he says he is, so this obsessive focus on his façade does nothing but waste time that could be put towards further developing the characters and the plot.
Similarly, Barrett wastes a lot of time on scenes that feel completely unnecessary to the story.
He can be forgiven for the scene in which he gets back at Luke’s bullies as it is a rather amusing one, but does he really need to stretch out the opening half by having David and Anna attend a party together for several minutes in a scene that adds nothing to the film? After the long overuse of buildup, the plot finally comes to a head in about the last 20 minutes, but even then we get a rather ho-hum conclusion that features several head-shaking moments of disbelief. It’s a shame that Barrett didn’t learn anything from his last project, which was also missing a spark of creativity to bring it to life. With a little work on the script, this could have at least been a silly and entertaining thriller, but without that creative spark, all it does is leave us with a forgettable outing that doesn’t provide much in the way of entertainment.
“The Guest” arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The picture presented here is clear and sharp throughout, even during the darker scenes, of which there are several. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fantastic as well, giving you all elements of the soundtrack from dialogue to score in outstanding quality. Overall, the film has been given great treatment in both departments that doesn’t garner a single complaint.
Feature Commentary with Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett: A feature-length commentary in which the director and writer show that they don’t really have anything interesting or informative to say about the film.
Q&A with Dan Stevens: A very brief two-minute featurette that has Stevens talking about the
film. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything to be learned here either.
Deleted Scenes: About 15 minutes of cut scenes that don’t contain anything significant.
“The Guest” has a fine premise, but thanks to the sloppy execution, the full potential of the story is never realized. What we end up with instead is another exercise in attempted thrills and surprises from director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett that leaves the audience indifferent and dissatisfied. With a little more thought put into it, this could have been just the kind of film they wanted it to be, instead of a forgettable thriller that merely has the audience waiting for a payoff that never comes.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting Tuesday.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.